“Step one in a best practice violet growing regime should be the very regular removal of dead flowers.”
Written by Mary Schaeffer, For Beginners Columnist
African Violet Magazine May-June 2014
When most people think of taking care of their violet collection, they think about watering, repotting, fertilizing and perhaps getting their plants ready for a show. For many people, grooming is something that only comes into serious consideration when they are getting plants ready for a show. This is unfortunate because regular grooming can make the difference between a blue-ribbon winner and a plant which stays home.
Most growers will remove dead or fading flowers on a regular basis. This is something that should be done as soon as the flowers fade. The stalks of dead flowers are ugly. While it sounds easy enough, it’s something you need to stay on top of.
Of course, the more serious grower, concerned primarily about their annual shows, keep their violets disbudded nearly year-round and don’t have this problem. But for the rest of us who like to enjoy their violets year-round, step one in a best practice violet growing regime should be the very regular removal of dead flowers.
Likewise look for small immature leaves below older leaves and remove them. This is very important when the plants are young. The small leaves were the first to emerge on the young plant but they never grow larger. They have to be removed at some point if you want a strong healthy plant, so remove them as soon as other leaves are growing above them to a larger size. They are easy to identify. They are typically the ones on the bottom which are smaller than those on the next row of leaves above them.
Also, on a regular basis, remove yellowing leaves. Again, these tend to be the bottommost row. They do not add to the strength of the plant, but rather detract from it. Also, they are unsightly. Remove them early on and your plants will be stronger. The plant’s energy can go into supporting healthy leaves and producing new ones.
Lastly, be on the lookout for suckers. Suckers are those secondary side-shoots that, left alone, soon produce another full crown – ruining the symmetry of the rosette of leaves. Once removed, suckers may be rooted to produce another plant. However, they sap energy from the primary crown and (until separated) both crowns will produce fewer flowers.
The trick with suckers is to distinguish them from bloom stalks. When they are quite small, that may take a little detective work. Look closely at the emerging growth (between the leaf axils.) If it has only two leaves, it may be a bloom stalk. Once it has three or more, it is definitely a sucker.
Carefully remove the sucker, for if you are not careful, you might damage the mother plant. The smaller the sucker, the easier it is to remove. You may use a dull pencil, a small knife, your fingernails, or my favorite – a tool called a “sucker plucker.”
Every week or two, look at your plants. Pick up each violet and look at it closely for spent flowers, small leaves, yellowed leaves, and suckers. Remove all of them.
Washing Your Plants
While we don’t really grow violets for their foliage, the leaves on a well-grown violet can be quite beautiful. That doesn’t happen without some effort. Think about your home. No matter how good your housekeeping is, eventually dust gets in. And dust doesn’t discriminate. It lands equally on all surfaces, including the space where your violets live. Left unchecked, that dust will block the pores of the foliage and leave the plant with an overall dull appearance.
Removing that grime is relatively easy. Wash your plants. Don’t use a dusting product (it’s oily.) Also, washing is much easier if you do it when the plant is not in bloom – but you probably figured that out already.
Take the plant to your sink and give it a good spritzing. If your sink has a sprayer attachment, you may use that. If not, mist the plant, using a plastic sprayer bottle, being gentle not to break leaves. The water used should be room temperature or warmer, but of course not scalding hot. Give each plant a nice gentle shower making sure you thoroughly cover every leaf.
Since you’ve already got the plant at the sink, this might be a good time to leach the soil as well. This involves pouring a cup (or more) of clear plain water into the top of the pot and through the roots to help rid it of any fertilizer salts which may have built up in the pot. This is especially important if you bottom water.
Don’t let the plant stand in the water that drains off the plant, for violets don’t like wet feet. You might check the center of the crown to make sure no water has settled in there. Gently dab the excess water up with a tissue to remove it.
If you are growing under lights, you may return the plants whenever you want to their usual location since the moisture on the leaves is unlikely to cause any damage. If you grow in natural light however, let the plants dry thoroughly before returning them to a window with direct sunlight.
Spend a little time grooming each of your plants on a regular basis and they’ll repay you by blooming their heads off – and isn’t that why we grow them?
Content updated 2020